(Originally published January 29, 2014.)
It really does matter what you believe down inside. It is neither abstract nor separate from everyday life. It’s what the Wise King warned about: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) It’s easy to apply that to the importance of keeping a heart pure from sin, but his caution is so much deeper and more vital than that. Above everything else you do in life, guard what you believe to be true, for that will form the framework of the life you build; it will determine the way you perceive the world around you, others, God, yourself. What you believe about reality will determine your values, your goals, your decisions. What you believe will shape your responses to everything you experience, so be careful and guard your heart– this is vital for living.
And yet, when you think about it, how unconsciously and gradually those beliefs and perspectives were built, most of them when we were too young to even question or evaluate them. My worth depends on my performance…or my looks…or my possessions…or my position. My happiness depends on being loved and approved of…or being in control…or satisfying my desires…or having everything go well. All childish sandcastles that could never sustain the weight of a real life. It doesn’t matter precisely how or when we acquired them– they are all only variations of the first lie we listened to, way back at the beginning of time, when the Serpent whispered in Woman’s ear that maybe God wasn’t really Who He said He was, wasn’t really enough for them. Try something else, he said, and she did. And we did. All of us, building fragile on things that shift with the tide.
The children sing on Sunday morning, little fists thumping gleefully one atop the other as they lay up bricks: “The wise man built his house upon the rock, the wise man built his house upon the rock, and the rains came tumbling down…” Because the storms do that, in life, full floods bursting in when you least expect it, or even just the slow steady dripping that rises till it is mountain-high, and that’s when you get to see what a house is really made of, no matter how it looks on the outside. I ask the children if the song is really about building houses and they quickly shake their heads no. They anticipate my question now, because we talk about it every time we sing the song. We talk about how we are building our lives, and it matters what we build on; any foundation other than Jesus’ teachings is shifting sand, like sandcastles on the beach when the waves rush in. “The foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the rains came tumbling down.” The little ones love to crash to the floor at the end, laughing at how the house on the sand collapsed as the floods came up.
But I have seen whole lives collapse under the weight of losing a career…the sheer pain of carving up a marriage…the inexorable advance of cancer…the slow despair of years that eat up dreams. Those kinds of floods bring utter ruin, unless your house is built on solid Truth.
No matter what I have or don’t have, my house can stand if I have this: “Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ” (Hebrews 13:5) Regardless of what sorrow comes, and no matter how hard the winds blow, we have an unshakable foundation: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Relationships may fail to nourish, and people we should be able to trust can prove wildly undependable, but Peter shouts out joyfully that we are valued and loved by the One who sent His Son to die for us: “… you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) There is Truth to put down in the center of our hearts and guard with all our might, if we know where to find it.
James urges his readers: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) Just go looking in the right place, the Elder Brother says…go right to the source, and you will find the wisdom you need. But you had better be ready to look deep inside yourself and confront what is really there, because many of us have learned the right words– what we say we believe– even while living out a different set of beliefs at the core of us. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we are building strong, when all we are really doing is painting the same old flimsy structure and planting flowers. No wonder the writer of Hebrews emphasizes the power of Scripture in our lives, calling it “…alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) If you want to know what you really believe, God’s Word is the measuring stick and the light that shines into the darkest, most hidden closets.
And the Wise King waxes eloquent about the benefits of building strong. “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (Proverbs 24:3-4)
In Christ alone my hope is foundIn Christ Alone, Keith Getty
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.Proverbs 14:1